vagueness in the world; a Supervaluationist Approach

In Ken Akiba & Ali Abasnezhad (eds.), Vague Objects and Vague Identity: New Essays on Ontic Vagueness. Dordrecht, Netherland: Springer. pp. 239-256 (2014)
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Abstract

Russell once said that “Vagueness and precision alike are characteristics which can only belong to a representation, of which language is an example. They have to do with the relation between a representation and that which it represents. Apart from representation, whether cognitive or mechanical, there can be no such thing as vagueness or precision; things are what they are, and there is an end of it” (1923). In other words, expressions like ontological vagueness (and even ontological precision) are category mistakes and therefore make no sense. Half a century later, as the view began to emerge that some vagueness could be intelligibly ascribed to the world, Dummett opined that “It is not apparently absurd to suppose ... that the physical world is in itself such that the most precise description of it that even omniscience would yield might yet involve the use of expressions having some degree of vagueness” (1981). Evans had already questioned the idea of worldly vagueness, arguing that it was inconsistent (1978). A quarter of a century later, however, many papers had been written in defense of the intelligibility and possibility of this once nonsense and then contradictory claim. This chapter is one of them, albeit from a different viewpoint. The aim of this chapter is twofold: firstly, to consider the intelligibility of vague ontology, and secondly, to discuss the most famous argument against vague ontology, i.e., Evans’ argument. To this end, in Sect. 11.2 we present some commonsensical considerations on vague ontology. In Sect. 11.3, we look at some supervaluationist theories and the kind of vague ontology they accommodate before arguing that this kind of ontology is inconsistent with commonsense. Section 11.4 outlines a version of supervaluationism that can accommodate the commonsensical considerations discussed in Sect. 11.2. The outlined view is an ontological variation of Kit Fine’s characterization of vagueness as incompleteness (1975). It will be argued that the view is more effective than other versions of supervaluationism at accommodating commonsensical and metaphysical considerations. In the following section, we consider vague identity. Based on the view outlined in Sect. 11.4, there may be vague identity in some special cases. In Sect. 11.6 we focus on Evans’ argument and argue that it can be blocked in the first step.

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Author Profiles

Ali Abasnezhad
Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München
Davood Hosseini
Tarbiat Modares University

Citations of this work

Boundary.Achille C. Varzi - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Moral realism and semantic accounts of moral vagueness.Ali Abasnezhad - 2023 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 66 (3):381-393.

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